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Should You Do Stand-up, Improv, or Both?

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Well, it depends.  Pursuing improv means being willing to stand up on stage and act out an unrehearsed scene, thinking on the spot and interjecting appropriate dialogue.  Stand-up, on the other hand, is largely compromised of pre-written and rehearsed jokes.  This doesn’t mean an audience member can’t throw off part of the show or give it a new direction.  But, for the most part, improv is on-the-spot and stand-up is well-thought-out.

You may want to try both to get a feel for which route best suits you.  Experiencing both will allow you to better understand which direction to take career-wise.  Both are challenging, and one is not necessarily easier or harder than the other.  If you have a knack for writing and delivering effective jokes, you may make a great stand-up comedian.  If you’re a quick thinker who’s able to carry out an impromptu exchange, consider improv.

Both are live, too, in a way.  While improv is live in the sense that there is no way to rehearse lines ahead of time and the story unfolds on the stage, stand-up also falls into this category.  After all, you are standing up in front of a live audience who will be receiving your jokes and they can be well- or not-so-well-received.  Also, no two sets of audience members are exactly alike.  This means stand-up comedians must be able to “read” an audience and adapt as necessary.

Either way, confidence is key.  You have to make yourself and the audience believe you have talent and are able to deliver an engaging show.  Own the stage or room.  Even if it’s your first show, act as if you have years of experience.  Easier said than done, but essential.  Comedians always appear confident in their ability to be funny, right?

And, if you bomb an improv experience or stand-up show, oh well!  On to the next.  Learn from your mistakes and understand what you should do instead next time.  You may have to change the setup or delivery of a joke or eliminate it altogether.  Or, you may have to practice some improv with friends before doing it with fellow actors.  Whatever it is, don’t keep going about things the same way expecting different results.  Roll with it and adapt accordingly.

Above all, don’t forget to have fun!  Comedians pursue comedy because it’s fun.  They enjoy what they do.  If you’re not enjoying the ride, simply get off and try something else.  

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